Perhaps no area of family law is more emotionally charged than determining custody and visitation with minor children. Whether or not a couple was ever married, it is in the best interest of both parties—and their children—to hire a family law attorney when there are differing opinions regarding visitation or child custody. At Giordano, DelCollo, Werb & Gagne, our attorneys are experienced in these matters and will fight for the healthiest outcome and what is best for you and your child or children.
In Delaware, “Custody” refers to the rights of parents to make decisions concerning their children. Ordinarily, it is preferable to all concerned that parents agree to exercise joint custody when it comes to the interests of children during a divorce or after a relationship breaks apart. In case of joint custody, both parents act as custodians for the child. Parents are equally involved in decisions regarding how the child will be raised, educated, disciplined and cared for. Both parties will work to decide where the child will live and go to school. Both parents will be involved in determining decisions regarding religion, health and social needs.
Joint custody requires a healthy line of communication so that the child’s best interests are met. The Court will take into account the mental and physical wellness of both parents as well as that of the child when making determinations regarding joint custody.
Sole Custody is an arrangement whereby the non-custodial parent does not actively share in responsibilities pertaining to the raising of the child. In this case, decisions made regarding health, religion and schooling are legally in the hands of the custodial parent. The custodial parent must still provide information to the non-custodial parent regarding significant events in the life of the child so that the non-custodial parent can make plans to attend such events.
How Does the Court Make Decisions Regarding Custody?
The Family Court of the State of Delaware is directed by statute to act in the best interests of the child in custody cases. Because no two families are the same, to determine what is in the best interests of the children in a given family, the Court looks to a list of factors. According to Title 13 of the Delaware Code (Section 722), the best interest of the child consists of the following:
- The wishes of the child’s parents as to his/her custody and living arrangements
- The wishes of the child as to his/her custody and living arrangements
- The interaction of the child with his/her parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and any people living in the child’s home or affecting the child’s best interest
- The child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- How well each parent has in the past and currently satisfies their parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their children
- Evidence of domestic violence
- The criminal history of any party or other resident of a household, including guilty pleas, pleas of no contest and criminal convictions
Visitation / Parenting Time
Visitation concerns what time the child or children spend with each parent—with orders ranging from shared (50/50) residency all the way to situations where one parent might have visitation only in a State-run visitation center. As with every other aspect of child custody, the court makes determinations related to visitation based on the best interests of the child. Visitation provides a schedule that ensures regularity for both parents and a secure knowledge of when they will be able to spending time with their children. If both parents cannot agree upon a schedule, the Judge will set a schedule to be followed by both parties. Visitation cannot be denied by the custodial parent due to lapses in child support. If the court finds that either party is not abiding by the terms of the visitation, the terms may be changed and fines or other penalties may be administered. Because the Court’s determination of a visitation schedule is based on the best interest factors outlined above, it is vitally important that a parent be prepared with a competent, experienced family law attorney to present all of the relevant facts to the Court in a persuasive way to ensure the best possible outcome for that parent and their children.
If you a parent considering divorce or you have been served with divorce papers, you need to be certain you are hiring an attorney who is well versed with all facets of family law. Call the law firm that believes that experience matters. For cases concerning child custody in Delaware, call Giordano, DelCollo, Werb & Gagne.